My daughter and son-in-law, Anna and David, just moved to Asia as missionaries. They are going to be teaching English to Asian students in a university setting as a platform for sharing the gospel. I am excited about God’s call on their lives, but I have mixed feelings about their living in Asia. For years I have preached about missions and have helped mobilize hundreds of people to be on mission. Now that my own daughter is the missionary, it is a whole new reality for me. If I am honest, the thought of them (and our future grandchildren) being so far from home causes me to grieve to a certain degree. However, over time, as I have become somewhat comfortable with their being away, I am reminded that God’s missionary call is for every believer. I know that I have to trust Jesus’s call on their lives just as I have trusted his call on the lives of the others I have pastored and mobilized.
As I have worked through my own daughter’s calling to Asia, I am even more resolved that it is every believer’s job to live on mission. God did not call a few elite forces, such as Anna and David, to be on mission, but he has called everyone. When Jesus gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28, his command was to all believers. Making disciples of all nations is an all-hands-on-deck proposition.
Every believer has been uniquely wired to live on mission. Each has been given gifts and talents to participate in God’s mission. Additionally, every believer has been given access to people who do not know Jesus to whom others do not have access. Craig Bartholomew says about the missionary calling of individuals: “From the beginning God’s people are to be ‘missionary.’ They are chosen to be a channel of blessing to others.”
What does a life on mission look like? I am sure that question is on the minds of many. I have always thought missionaries are Christian superheroes. Though it is true that there are those whom God especially calls and equips to serve in special cross-cultural mission environments, the vast majority of people living on mission are people living their ordinary lives for the glory of God and the spread of the gospel.
As we seek to help every church be on mission, we are helping equip everyday people in those churches on their individual missions. In the summer of 2015, we hosted the Send North America Conference in Nashville around the theme that every life on mission matters. During the two-day event, we featured stories of six different people who are living on mission. One of those stories was of a mom named Danae. Danae and her husband live in the Denver area. They have four kids, full-time jobs outside the home, and are active in their church. Most would say they are doing enough. However, Danae wanted to do more. She had a burden for her neighbors, thinking to herself, “if l love spending time with them now, I will surely want to spend time with them for eternity.” That thought encouraged Danae to turn her home into a mission center. They have turned their front yard into a gathering spot for the neighborhood and their living room into a site for a neighborhood Bible study. Over the past couple of years, Danae’s home has become the center of the community. Her neighbors seek her out for biblical counsel, and many are turning their hearts toward Jesus.
Danae would tell you that she is not doing anything special. She is simply living out her life by leveraging the gifts and access she has been given. Jeremiah 29 records the story of the Israelite exiles in Babylon. They were forced with the decision to adopt the culture and the practices of their captors, barricade themselves off from their captors, or figure out a way to live on mission as a distinct people. They chose the last option: to live among the people but be different. Their challenge was to reflect the character of God in a climate in which that seemed impossible. Tim Keller sums up their experience and how it applies to modern-day missionaries by saying:
“Christians… work for the peace, security, justice, and prosperity of their city and their neighbors, loving them in word and in deed, whether they believe what we do or not. In Jeremiah 29:7, Israel’s exiles were called not just to live in the city to which they had been carried off but also to love it and work for its shalom—its economic, social, and spiritual flourishing. The citizens of God’s city are the best possible citizens of their earthly cities.”
In the simplest terms, people who live on mission in their everyday lives “are the best possible citizens of their earthly cities.” Keller goes on to say that when Christians do “their work in an excellent but distinctive manner, that alone will produce a different kind of culture from the one in which we live now.” He says further that “developing humane, creative, and excellent business environments out of our understanding of the gospel can be part of this work. The embodiment of joy, hope, and truth in the arts is also part of this work.”
I am excited about many of the things we are doing at NAMB these days, but one of the strategies I am most excited about is called Generation Send (Gen Send). Gen Send is designed for college-age young adults to give them a taste of what their life on mission can be. Each Gen Send participant spends six weeks in one of our Send North America feature cities. They work alongside church planters, learning the culture with the aim of creating strategies to share the gospel in that context. I think what excites me most about Gen Send is that participants are learning how to leverage their lives on mission. When their time in our program is over, they have a new perspective on what mission looks like. They are able to take their experiences and incorporate them into their everyday lives. Some of them will return to their Send City to live on mission, some will become church planters, but all of them will leverage whatever career path they are on to help build up the church.
Deep in my heart I believe the only way North America is going to see a major gospel advance is when every church and believer in those churches are on mission. We cannot afford to have anyone on the sidelines.
*This article is an excerpt from The SBC and the 21st Century: Reflection, Renewal, and Recommitment. Edited by Jason K. Allen (B&H Academics). The culmination of a landmark symposium on the campus of Midwestern Seminary, this book features contributions from President Allen, Frank Page, Ronnie Floyd, Thom Rainer, Albert Mohler, Paige Patterson, David Platt, Danny Akin, Justin Taylor, Collin Hansen, and more on the future of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Available to purchase online at Amazon.com and B&H Publishing and in LifeWay Christian Stores. Learn more at jasonkallen.com/sbc21book.
topicsSBC, Southern Baptist